I felt most at home on this pill in a bucolic shire
of wheat on a Metamucil can, milkweed & sneeze drops,
a track The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner
never checked out in the Orangeade foam of dawn.
Glistening like a brow in an aspirin ad on the telly,
I’ve got a brain like soaked coral.
I’ve got a tongue like a baby’s penis.
I’m Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense --
I’m dead but I don’t know it.
My pen, my Eskimo blood spilled cheekily
over good & dear people. I managed to write this
by myself With a Little Help from My Friends.
When I said, “Oh get me away I’m dying,”
I meant I wanted a cigarette & a problem child
on a peony-filled evening. In the dry heat
of photocopy fans, making Easter cards with the, uh,
terminally ill, you hold the retinal scanner to my heart.
“Now I know how Joan of Arc felt
as flames rose to her Roman nose &
her hearing aid began to melt. . . ”
And in the darkened underpass I gave
blood & now my French is shaky.
-- Jeni Olin
If I tell you that the titles of a sequence of poems in
Jeni’s new book are Depakote, Abilify,
Klonopin, Xanax, Paxil, Lamactil, Meridia, and Lithium, you will conclude that she has not always had an easy time
of it. And you would undoubtedly figure
just what to expect: poems so lugubrious, so dismal, so unrelievedly saturated
with gloom, that, upon turning the last page, you’d be feeling a need for some
strong medication of your own.
not the case: Jeni Olin writes the most energetic poems about depression ever
put to paper. Every poem is a
thrill-ride. When you turn a corner, you
have no idea where you’ll end up and the images come speeding by you, from a
can of Metamucil to Joan of Arc’s nose. Yet the poem never feels like a random collection of unconnected lines. It adds up. The sheer exuberance of the
language and the surprising connections are the very opposite of what the title tells you to expect. You can feel a little guilty: How can this
writer’s problems make me feel so good?
-- Robert Hershon